As difficult it is to believe, being the friend that other people go to for advice is an attainable goal. I know that sometimes it seems like you are barely qualified to go grocery shopping without a parent or guardian to keep an eye on you, let alone help someone process a real problem, but it’s not as hard as it sounds.
Giving good advice to friends is less about being ~The Most Together~ person in your squad, and more about listening. Keep in mind these few simple tips and soon your friends will be begging you to help solve their problems. Just remember — with great power comes great responsibility.
Step 1: Don’t give unsolicited advice
The way to become the friend who everyone goes to for advice is absolutely not to just give the most advice. Quality over quantity here, people. Let your friends come to you once they realize how helpful and supportive you are, once you follow the next few steps.
Step 2: Don’t try to be The Most Together
Being the friend with the good advice doesn’t mean you are the one who has all of your shit together. In fact, trying to prove that your life is the most on track will most likely backfire, make you seem like you’re acting too good for your friends, and make your friends avoid you. Pointing out what makes you better isn’t how to give advice.
Step 3: Listen
Above all else, people who are seeking advice mostly just need to be heard. Let them explain or talk through their problem without interjecting or commenting or asking too many questions. Pay close attention to what they say, and you may be able to point out something about the situation that they hadn’t noticed. Often, the best “advice” is just offering an outsider’s perspective on a situation your friend is too close to to see the best course of action.
Step 4: Focus on what they’re saying
This is similar to listening, but you need to really be sure you’re tuned in and know what your friend is actually telling you, not what you think they’re saying. It’s easy when we’re close to someone to assume we know what they’re going to say. But instead of thinking ahead to what you want to tell them, be present and focus on what they’re saying.
Step 5: Offer an outsider’s perspective
When someone is asking advice, sometimes just having a fresh set of eyes look at a situation and say what’s obvious is all you need. We all get a little too close to our problems sometimes, and need someone else to look at it for us and say what’s staring us in the face. That’s where you come in.
Step 6: Talk about your own personal experiences, if relevant
Sometimes knowing that someone else has been where you are or felt what you felt is the most helpful thing you can get from a friend. Just be sure that you are saying something that you would want to hear if you were in your friend’s shoes.
Step 7: Don’t talk about your personal experiences if not relevant
If you’re doubtful about if your experience really fits what your friend is going through, don’t bring it up. Talking too much about yourself when you’re supposed to be helping a friend is a big, BIG don’t.
Step 8: Walk through their options
Rather than having a single quick fix to a problem, your role should be to help lay out several courses of action that your friend could take. Talk about several possible ways to handle the problems and the pros and cons of each. Talk about what the outcome might look like for each option. Your job as the Advice Friend isn’t to have all the answers, it’s to help your friends process something by looking at all sides.
Step 9: Do research for them
Even after the conversation is over, if you felt that you could have done more, maybe doing a Google search of what other people have done in their position or doing some low-key research can find the answer you didn’t have at the moment. The world wide is vast and people are it’s an endless resource — even for personal problems. Feel free to gently bring up the topic again if you find something constructive and important to add.
Step 10: Don’t tell them what to do
In most cases, you should not be giving a hard-and-fast verdict. It’s not your place to tell people what to do because there’s almost never a single right answer to anything. It’s likely that your friends will ask you flat out for a recommendation, in which case you can probably give one. But it has to be prefaced with “if it were me…” and followed by “but it’s your decision! It’s your life and only you know what’s best for you.”
Step 11: Withhold judgement
Maybe one of the hardest things about being the Advice Friend is knowing that people may not always take your advice. But one of the best things about being the Advice Friend is knowing that the biggest part of the job is listening without judgment. Once you can master those two things, and not look at your friends differently no matter how they choose to solve their problems, you’re doing great.
Step 12: Be available to discuss the same thing again
Along the “don’t judge them” line, sometimes it’s difficult to get advice from someone and immediately act on it. Make a point to check in on your friend in the future and be available for further conversations if they aren’t done mulling over whatever the problem is. We all know how tough some choices can be — just do your best to make them feel heard and understood.
Step 13: Don’t talk to other people about the problem
Unless your friend gives you permission or brings it up when you’re around other people, you shouldn’t tell other people about the problem they’re having. Asking for advice is really hard for people sometimes, and finding out that now a lot more people than they intended know about their problem is not going to make anyone come back to you for more. Keep it to yourself.
Step 14: Make them feel understood
When they’re talking, nod your head. Say “I get it, that must be so difficult.” Tell them you’re there for them and things will get better. Be sure not to talk over them and be sure you’re sincere. But a lot of the time, just venting is a big help for friends who need advice. Show them you care.
Step 15: Know when you don’t have the answers
It’s better to admit that you don’t know what to do either than to pretend you know everything. Don’t feel like you have to know exactly what to do. Like I said, a lot of times it’s just about showing you care and helping them work through it themselves. And that’s a way easier job anyway.
Step 16: Know when they need you to make them laugh
This has been a serious post, but don’t let that fool you: adding humor to the conversation is often vital to getting through a conversation like this. What are friends for but to make you laugh? Read the mood and know when to lighten it.
Step 17: Support them whatever they decide
Bring the friend with the advice is important, but being the friend who is around after the advice conversation is more important. So when it’s over, be there for them afterward. Don’t judge. And be the supportive friend they need.